Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Predictions: James Booth, CEO, Scoota

For NDA’s Programmatic Month, we’re asking some of our favourite people for their predictions for programmatic technologies and advertising in 2021. Next up is James Booth, CEO, Scoota.

What impact has the events of 2020 had on programmatic advertising and how is it recovering?

It’s fair to say that the peak period of Covid was a bumpy one. The initial response we saw was an immediate suspension of a considerable amount of activity. Where it then became interesting was witnessing a number of brands and agencies starting to use the ‘downtime’ to review how they approached programmatic. During that quiet time we signed more platform contracts than ever before, quite simply because those clients had the bandwidth to consider looking at an alternative approach. Those contracts are now operational, but across the board and despite the impact of the second lockdown, the rebound has been much stronger than we initially anticipated, with this Q4 coming in overall way above 2019.

What is the biggest opportunity in programmatic for 2021?

There are so many opportunities for programmatic, but for those to be realised, a shift in approach is needed. Ask yourself, how well is it currently working? I’ve always believed that true creativity delivers better results than poor creative that’s subject to exhausted data. I am biased, but rather excitingly the demise of the cookie could allow creative to become the key focus once again.

Many years ago, creative agencies produced wonderful bespoke executions that charmed the audience and played to the interactive nature of the medium; at Tangozebra we were lucky enough to deliver many of those campaigns. Today, creative can appear somewhat as an afterthought to data, with even the most exotic executions being repurposed from existing assets.

We built the Scoota platform to optimise against a variety of creative KPIs by subject category, context, device, etc. And we created tech that allows us to deliver interactive multimedia without the need to pre-test the environment, so reach isn’t an issue. Delivering highly impactful creative without reach restriction and in the right way, consistently delivers engagement rates many, many times the established norms. With programmatic DOOH we see incredible results when we deliver HTML5-based dynamic creative against real-time triggers. The biggest opportunity lies with a courageous step towards enchanting creative that delights consumers across all programmatic platforms.

What is the biggest challenge that programmatic faces in the year ahead?

Alas many of the same challenges experienced in the early phases of digital continue to exist for programmatic. Some of the age-old practices of free-flowing T&E budgets and hefty rebates continue to disproportionately influence some ad tech choices, and challenge transparency. That said, I am confident that brands remain committed to finding new ways to deliver exceptional creative experiences to their consumers.

Our programmatic industry is already able to deliver this in a much more refined manner than the often over-used instrument of retargeting, but it requires an open mind, a different approach, and obviously the right technology. The biggest challenge is therefore that of changing the status quo so that new approaches can be established. It’s exciting to see a number of independent agencies moving in this direction.

What channels will fare best? And worst?

The closer you are to the screen the more intrusive the advertising. Unlike TV, radio and outdoor, the Internet is very much a ‘sit forward and do’ medium; the users are super sophisticated and often intolerant. So it’s those more relaxed channels that stand to fare best from programmatic unless we change our approach to programmatic display, as I’d like to see. As I mentioned, we’ve seen industry-norm-busting results with real-time triggers and dynamic creative for programmatic Digital Out of Home. Here we are able to deliver joined-up experiences for consumers, leveraging real-time information to adjust messaging to the real-world environment at that moment. If you delight the consumer with a genuinely well-targeted relevant message, they may just reward you with sales.

How will new and emerging channels such as TV, outdoor and audio better plug into one-to-one programmatic channels?
I’m seeing lovely examples of this in the work we’re doing with The Cloud + Compass. Scoota’s DSP takes real-time retail data from footfall-counting installations The Cloud + Compass has in place, such as across the Westfield outlets.

This data drives real-time decisioning for programmatic DOOH and dynamic creative. For example, should footfall in a restaurant fall below a certain level, our DSP automatically buys DOOH panels to promote that seats are currently available and to offer a voucher. Consent-based mobile devices in close proximity to those panels can be re-messaged. Further, those devices could in turn influence CTV and audio decisioning.

What do you most hope will happen in the industry? What do you most fear?

I hope to see creativity placed at the forefront of programmatic delivery and for more brands to see that this is genuinely possible at real scale. Bespoke creative experiences, produced specifically for the capabilities of the medium, do deliver results. I hope we will see the adoption of technologies based on what delivers the best results for a brand and their consumers, rather than internal, self-serving KPIs.

My fear is there will remain too many conflicting interests.